Throughout March and April the Syrian government, assisted by its Russian and Iranian allies, has been slowly retaking eastern Ghouta, a large area on the outskirts of Damascus comprising several towns as well as farmland, that was captured by jihadis five years ago and was being used as a base for lobbing missiles (from a massive stockpile supplied by the US and Saudi Arabia) into central Damascus, causing much loss of life and a great number of injuries to innocent civilians. It had been hoped that the missiles would run out and it would be possible to drive the jihadis out by besieging the area peacefully, but after 5 years there appeared to be no end in sight, and in the meantime the 400,000 innocent civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta, prevented by the jihadis from leaving, were suffering every kind of deprivation, lacking food, drinking water, medicine, education, etc. To bring this dire situation to an end, the Syrian government, assisted by its Russian and Iranian allies, mounted an assault by bombing the area, targeting jihadi strongholds. After the Syrian forces had made important advances, arrangements were made to guarantee safe evacuation of the remaining jihadi strongholds, and, more or less reluctantly, some 14,000 fighters were persuaded rather than face annihilation to leave peacefully, having de-activated their booby traps and land mines as well as handed over most of their weapons, and taken by bus to Idlib province that is still under jihadi occupation. Finally on 12 April 2018 the Syrian government was finally able to announce that Douma, the jihadis’ last stronghold in eastern Ghouta, had been fully liberated, an announcement that led to delighted dancing in the streets and the joyful waving of Syrian two-star flags by the area’s remaining residents.
The inevitability of the Syrian government’s victory, following the liberation of Aleppo and numerous other areas since then, has not been at all pleasant for imperialism to contemplate. It has, while being notionally committed to fighting ISIS (which had briefly broken ranks and started attacking other jihadis in preference to their ‘proper’ target, i.e., the democratically elected Syrian government) been arming and financing the jihadis at great expense with a view to toppling the Syrian government that has been standing in the way of the expansion of US imperialist domination of the Middle East. Moreover, now that eastern Ghouta has finally been cleared of terrorists, it turns out that Nato troops, including British troops, had surreptitiously been stationed there in preparation for an assault on Damascus that was, in the event, frustrated by the Syrian government succeeding in liberating the area within only a few weeks from starting their offensive. Sputnik News reports:
“According to a report by Al-Mayadeen news channel cited by Fars News, a number of British troops have been captured during the Syrian Arab Army’s operations in Eastern Ghouta.
“They are believed to be a part of international military forces deployed in the region to launch a ground assault in Damascus in cooperation with the US. According to the report, the US and other NATO countries, Jordan and Israel planned to launch attacks from several fronts, but the plot failed as Syrian armed forces made a series of rapid advances in Eastern Ghouta in March. The plot allegedly involved massive airstrikes by US and Israeli planes that were supposed to pave the way for ground forces. …
“Since the plot failed due to rapid advances by the Syrian army, the US cancelled all operations planned for these foreign forces and ordered an immediate withdrawal from Eastern Ghouta through the eastern suburbs of Damascus, including Douma.
“The US and Turkey sought to rescue foreign ‘militants and agents operating for Israel, Jordan and NATO,’ now trapped in Ghouta, and move them to Idlib, the source says.
“The Turkish initiative to help with the evacuation of Nusra Front terrorists from Ghouta has reportedly been a coverup for ‘special foreign forces that were among the ranks of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated’ Nusra front terror organization.
"’Therefore, the US has ordered Jaysh al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman and other terrorist groups to allow the evacuation of civilians from Eastern Ghouta to army-held regions in a bid to provide the ground for these foreign agents to also leave Ghouta in disguise and enable the Turkish intelligence service to send them to specified regions in At-Tanf and northern Syria which are under the control of US troops,’ the source said.”
It would seem, however, that somebody forgot to tell the British troops, who remained in eastern Ghouta to be captured and thus give the whole game away.
It was therefore in the context of the impending frustration of their carefully laid and prepared plans that the imperialists, along with their Israeli sidekick, sought to rescue the situation by resorting as soon as possible to a massive bombing campaign along the lines Hillary Clinton had envisaged initiating had she become president. To gain public support, or at least apathy, in the face of such an intended egregious act of aggression against a sovereign state and its Russian ally that was genuinely fighting jihadi terrorism to which imperialism always claimed to be opposed, resort was had yet again to supposed Syrian and Russian attacks on civilians with poison gas. This time, Assad’s supposed chemical weapons were supplemented by Russia’s supposed ‘novichoks’ unleashed on unsuspecting civilians in sleepy Salisbury – giving rise to a wave of unparalleled media hysteria, even though, as it turned out, only three people were affected by this supposedly super highly toxic nerve agent – none of whom has died. The policeman supposedly affected has dropped out of the news altogether for reasons unexplained. In any event, the lies told by the bourgeois political representatives and media were so glaring, so unsupported by evidence and so self-contradictory, that their main effect may well be to increase growing public cynicism towards any propaganda emanating from these quarters.
In the meantime the White Helmets have helpfully been supplying pictures of children supposedly gassed in Douma, being doused with water presumably to counter the effects of the ‘poisoning’ – but curiously those who are doing the dousing are wearing no protective clothing or masks to protect them, and the children in question are looking no more distressed than would be expected when buckets of cold water are poured over them against their will, and one of the children has since been filmed telling reporters that there had never been anything wrong with him but that he had been given sweets in exchange for posing for the White Helmets in apparent distress. Russian experts were rushed to the scene to ascertain whether there had in fact been a gas attack and, if there had been, who had been responsible, but were unable to find any trace of one:
“The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces revealed the results of analysis of Syrian Douma soil taken immediately after the alleged chemical attack.
"’I want to emphasize that on April 9, a day after the alleged chemical attack in the Douma, Russian military specialists in the field of radiation, chemical and biological defense, as well as military doctors arrived directly to the site of the alleged incident,’ First Deputy Head of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznihir said.
“He noted that the experts ‘took soil samples, collected fragments from the so-called place of the alleged chemical weapons attack,’ stressing that their expertise ‘showed the absence of nerve agents and chlorine-containing poisonous substances.’
"’As a result of the examination of the territory, the visit to the medical facility shown on the set of the White Helmets, the interview of the medical staff and the patients, neither facts of the use of poisonous substances nor injured among the inhabitants of this city were detected,’ he stressed…
“However, he recalled the Russian Military reports on the possible chemical attack by militants in the area, speaking about a militant workshop for the production of explosive items with poisonous substances that has been found in the Syrian town of Hazram at the beginning of March, according to Armed Forces of the Russian Federation General Staff.
"’One such example …was the discovery on March 3 of one of the underground tunnels in the town of Hazram, which turned out to be a militant workshop for the backyard production of explosives with poisonous substances,’ he said” (‘Soil analysis in Douma didn’t reveal any poisonous substances’, Sputnik, 11 April 2018).
The Red Crescent confirmed that there was no such attack, announcing that it had not received any reports of such an incident, and Ammar al-Assad, a member of the Syrian Parliament, pointed out that all chemical arms factories which had recently been exposed in Syria belonged to terrorists, while the Syrian government destroyed all its chemical weapons stockpiles several years ago under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Nevertheless, despite the full-blown priming of the propaganda machine, the threatened imperialist military strike did not happen immediately but was delayed until 14 April. Israel did launch one of its missile strikes against Syria early in the morning of 9 April, but Syrian air defence units managed to destroy five out of eight missiles fired by the Israeli fighter jets. Three missiles reached the western part of the airfield, resulting in the death of 14 people, including 7 Iranian soldiers. Despite the damage, Syria was able to demonstrate in the most telling way that any military attack by imperialist forces and their allies would not be carried out with impunity, quite unlike the attacks on Libya which was defenceless as a result of the No-Fly Zone imposed on it at the time.
Nor will the saner heads in Washington have forgotten President Putin’s words in his State of the Nation Address on 1 March:
“President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia threatened the West with a new generation of nuclear weapons …, including what he described as an ‘invincible’ intercontinental cruise missile and a nuclear torpedo that could outsmart all American defenses.
“The presentation by Mr. Putin, which included animation videos depicting multiple warheads aimed at Florida, where President Trump often stays at his Mar-a-Lago resort, sharply escalated the military invective in the tense relationship between the United States and Russia, which has led to predictions of a costly new nuclear arms race.
“While Mr. Putin may have been bluffing about these weapons, as some experts suggested, he cleverly focused on a vulnerability of American-designed defenses: They are based on the assumption that enemy nuclear missiles fly high and can be destroyed well before they reach their targets.
“The new class of Russian weapons, he said, travel low, stealthily, far and fast — too fast for defenders to react.” (Neil Macfarquhar and David E Sanger, ‘Putin’s “invincible” missile is aimed at US vulnerabilities’, New York Times, 1 March 2018).
Only this can explain the fact that, despite White House tweets on 11 April threatening “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it! (3:57 am – 11 Apr 2018), until 13 April nothing transpired, before a deadline announced by Trump came and went – a sign, no doubt, of much soul searching in and around the White House.
Nevertheless a single deadly bombing raid made up from US, British and French forces, was launched in the early morning of Saturday 14 April on selected targets in and around Damascus and Homs. The excuse for the bombing was that it was aimed purely at Syria’s chemical weapons plants, a claim that was obviously untrue since the OPCW has certified that Syria has under its auspices destroyed all such plants . However, since Trump had painted himself into a corner with his claims that an attack would definitely be coming, an attack there had to be. As no party to the attack could claim that it was made in self defence, it was, without UN backing, illegal under international law. It was an act of war that should have been approved by the democratic institutions of each of the three countries concerned, but no such approval was sought – each of them being far from sure that their reckless attack, that seriously risked extremely dangerous and damaging retaliation from Russia, would be authorised. Luckily, of the 103 deadly cruise missiles rained down on Syria, 71 were shot down (though imperialism denies this), and there were no human casualties, although some important buildings were destroyed.
RT reported on Russia’s outraged response to the attack in the following terms:
“Russia called the strikes that the US, the UK, and France carried out in Syria a ‘blatant disregard of international law.’ Moscow’s envoy to UN said the three countries could have stopped the conflict in Syria within 24 hours.
“By acting without any mandate from the UN Security Council, the US and its allies violated the norms and principles of international law, as well as undermining the authority of the UNSC, Russian Envoy to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said, denouncing the strikes against Syria as ‘an aggression against a sovereign state.’
“Nebenzia also called the attack ‘hooliganism’ in international relations, noting that it is not a small one, as nuclear powers are involved. He said that the countries used a well-tried pattern of ‘provocation-false accusations – false sentence – punishment.’
"’Is this the way you want to conduct international affairs?’ he said.
"’The conflict in Syria could have been stopped within 24 hours. Washington, London and Paris should have told their pocket terrorists to stop fighting the legitimate government of their people,’ Nebenzia said.
“He said that the two research facilities that were targeted in the strike had been inspected by the OPCW, which didn’t find any traces of chemical weapons.
“Just like they did a year ago, the US used a staged chemical attack against civilians as a pretext for its strikes, Nebenzia said, adding that Russian military experts found no trace of any chemical agent at the scene of the alleged attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma. ‘In a sign of cynical disdain,’ a group of Western countries decided to take military action without waiting for a group of OPCW experts to present the results of an investigation into the incident, according to Nebenzia.
“Russia did ‘everything possible’ to convince the US and its allies to refrain from their military plans, which could destabilize not only Syria but the whole Middle East. However, Washington, London, and Paris ‘preferred to disregard appeals to common sense,’ he added” (14 April 2018).
Unwilling to be party to the launching World War 3, Russia has not retaliated – her condition being that the strike be not repeated. This has not, however, prevented the western bourgeois media escalating its vituperative propaganda campaign against Russia. The working class, in the imperialist countries especially, is duty bound to expose imperialist warmongering and oppose its dangerous war provocations.
Imperialist governments feel emboldened to act in this reckless way only because the working-class movement is weak and has left its anti-war activities to pro-imperialist outfits such as Stop The War. Here is an example of the service that this supposedly anti-war organisation renders to imperialism, echoing its propaganda while apparently opposing direct imperialist intervention:
“Stop the War condemns the bombing attacks on the people of Douma in Syria [why? Is a country to be denied the right to fight terrorism in whatever manner happens to be the most effective so as to restore the peace and security of its citizens?], including alleged chemical attacks [the ‘alleged’ chemical attacks are nevertheless condemned, and the Syrian government is stated to be responsible for them]. Yet again, the main victims of this war are the ordinary people of Syria, who have now suffered seven years of war which has left many dead, and many more refugees.
“The attack must not be used to justify more military intervention. We condemn all outside military intervention including that of Russia and Iran [the intervention made at the request and in support of the democratically elected government is here being put on a par with the aggression of imperialism]. But equally we condemn that of our own government and its allies [the defenders are condemned to the same extent as the aggessors]. Already Donald Trump has promised retaliation and there has been a missile attack on a Syrian airfield, most likely by Israel. France and Britain are likely to support further such action.”
The fact is that in Britain it is the CPGB-ML alone which represents the anti-imperialist and anti-war stance and truly represents the interests of the working class.
There will be no peace in the world until imperialism is overthrown. An anti-war movement must thus be linked with the struggle of the working class against imperialism. This, and this alone, is the message that must permeate the working class and guide the activities of those seeking to represent it.
If imperialism were to wage a war against Russia or China, it will be the duty of the proletariat to side with the victims of this war and work for the defeat of their own imperialist masters, using the war to prepare for proletarian revolution.